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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns (5-3) Vs. Charlotte Hornets (3-5)

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Can the Suns take care of business tonight on the last game of their home-stretch?

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns Vs. Charlotte Hornets

Where: U.S. Airways Center - Phoenix, AZ

When: 7:00 p.m. (AZ)

Watch: FSAZ (locally) / NBA League Pass

Tonight, the Phoenix Suns are playing the final game of their five-game home stand against the Charlotte Hornets, before going on the road for a six game stretch that begins tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Th Suns have split their first four home games, going 2-2, in what has been anything but an easy stretch for Phoenix.  This will be an important game for the Suns for that very reason.  They would like to end their home-court stand with a winning record before going on the road for the next week and a half.

As for the Hornets, they are coming off of a two-game losing streak on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers. Charlotte will be looking to steal a win in Phoenix to try to salvage their road trip, with one game still left to play against the Golden State Warriors tomorrow night before they return home.

Probable Starting Lineups

Team Suns Hornets
PG Eric Bledsoe Kemba Walker
SG Goran Dragic Lance Stephenson
SF Marcus Morris Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Markieff Morris Marvin Williams
C Miles Plumlee Al Jefferson

What To Watch For

Start Your Engines: The Suns are still trying to figure out how to start their games with as much intensity and energy as they finish them.  So far, the Suns have been bailed out on their slow starts through their inspired play late in the game, but they can't continue this trend without consequences.  This has definitely become a pattern, and the Suns will be looking to remedy the situation tonight against Charlotte.

Never Underestimate Your Opponent: Yes, the Hornets are 3-5.  Yes, the Suns are a better team.  Yes, the Suns can still lose.  The Hornets are probably better than their record would indicate.  On Tuesday, they lost by only two points to a very good Blazers team, in a game that went down to the wire.  They also lost by only two points to the Memphis Grizzlies to start the season.  The point is, the Suns can't afford to overlook the Hornets in tonight's get-away game before heading to La-La Land.  Charlotte is very capable of hanging a bad loss on the Suns if they don't come prepared.

Slash Brothers: The Suns are supposed to have one of the best starting back-courts in the NBA.  At times this season, they have definitely lived up to that billing, but at others...not so much.  In fact, the second unit back-court of Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green is averaging more points both individually, and together, than the once dynamic-duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.  The Suns are only eight games into the season, and this is certainly no time to panic, but I think the team and fans alike would love to see their two starting guards begin to dominate on the floor together, and build leads against their opponent without having to rely on their dynamic second-unit to consistently save the day.

Big Al: Once again, the Hornets have a player who could be kryptonite for the Super-Suns.  Al Jefferson continues to be one of the most underrated bigs in the NBA, quietly averaging over 22 points per game to start the season.  The Suns will need both Miles Plumlee and Alex Len to play strong yet disciplined defense against the Hornet's very skilled big man.  One positive in this match-up, however, is that Al isn't the best rebounder, so hopefully the Suns can take advantage of that.


UPDATE: The Hornets are pretty banged up going into this game:

The Charlotte Hornets announced earlier that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will not play against the Phoenix Suns tonight as he recovers from a right foot injury. This news comes just one day after the Hornets announced Marvin Williams' status was questionable, which now looks to be upgraded to "doubtful" as it seems Cody Zeller will start in tonight's game.

Additionally, Lance Stephenson and Gary Neal have been declared questionable for tonight's game. Stephenson is dealing with a groin strain while Neal is recovering from a bruised left foot.